Ten years ago Cai Qulin and her husband Zhang Tao moved from their hometown in Henan Province, China to Beijing. Obviously life is very, very different in a city of twenty million, but it’s safe to say that Cai Qulin could never for a moment have imagined what happened to her last Saturday in Downtown Beijing.
It all began when her contractions became severe and she left for the hospital with her husband. Mrs Cai was nine months pregnant, but still nine days early. The pain was so intense, she asked her husband to pull over at a public ladies restroom. There, the woman gave birth to a baby girl, and in her confusion accidentally flushed the newborn down the pipes. She called for her husband waiting outside and he frantically dialed an emergency line for help. Rescue workers arrived quickly and began a desperate search for the baby which they could hear crying beneath the floor.
Public bathroom where a newborn girl was stuck after delivery
The rescue crew ripped out the toilet, and to prevent further injury to the tiny newborn used only their hands to crack the waste pipes. The rescue took about thirty minutes and both mother and infant were rushed to the Hospital of Tsinghua University for treatment. “She seemed a little pale and stiff," one of the rescue workers said, but a later report confirmed that the infant is now doing better, is currently listed in good condition and will return home shortly. The mother’s sister-in-law said the family will bring the baby home as soon as the doctor says it is safe. The mother is also in good condition and was discharged from the hospital on Saturday afternoon.
Mother at home on Saturday after her discharge
This is the second time an accident of this nature has happened in China. In 2006 a nineteen year-old woman had a similar experience and her baby too was accidentally flushed into the waste pipe. That baby made a full recovery. Many around the world may not be aware of the difference in traditional Chinese toilets compared to those familiar in other parts of the world. The toilet that rescue workers had to rip apart in Beijing on Saturday is the type that a person does not sit on, but rather squats over. This may sound odd and uninviting, but it is a design that follows the oldest manner, or posture of relief. People were squatting for thousands of years before the arrival of porcelain bowls with a cushy seat. Women were also having babies in a similar posture long before doctors decided that a hospital bed is better. Perhaps these squat toilets are not the best choice for women experiencing contractions, since the position makes an unexpected delivery possible. According to Wang Linhong, head of National Center for Women and Children’s Health in Beijing, it’s not often that a mother will give birth to a baby in a place like the toilet, but for older mothers who have already given birth before the risk of doing so may be greater.